With the debut of Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit one of the most eagerly anticipated events for the lion's share of Molde Jazz Expo delegatesnot to mention many of the festival's Norwegian attendeesthe Norwegian drummer had a lot to live up to, but he more than did so with an afternoon show that, rather than simply rely on the undeniable improvisational prowess of its eleven members, also worked off the strength of Nilssen- Love's writing, which provided plenty of context around which the group could extemporize freely.
Still, it was not a show for the faint of hearttwo drummers (in addition to Nilssen-Love, Andreas Wildhagen), two bassists (Jon Rune Strom and Christian Meås Svendsen, playing both electric and acoustic variants), two saxophonists (altoist Klaus Holm and alto/baritone Kasper Værnes), trumpet (Thomas Johansson), trombone (the particularly impressive Mats Äleklint), tuba (Borre Molstad), guitar (Ketil Gutvik) and electronics (Lasse Marhaug)meant there was plenty of potential for some seriously joyful noise.
Opening with an exercise in organized chaos, the music may have, at times, felt completely and utterly freeand it wasbut there was still an underlying structure that shaped the overall context when it came time to let loose and fire on all cylinders. The set's second piece possessed a more defined groovethough, with both drummers going at it like there was no tomorrow, it was sometimes buried in a clatter of snares, cymbals, toms and bass drums.
What gave the set its contrast and diversion was how the group broke down into various subsets; nothing intrinsically new there, but with Wildhagen as capable of frenzied polyrhythms as Nilssen-Love, it allowed the leader to sit out for periods of time, and to, at times, conduct the group, albeit with far less than the grand gestures such music might suggest.
With an eleven-tet this strong, it was particularly remarkable that Äleklint stood out, but his control over multiphonics was especially impressive, as was his ability to swoop down into low guttural registers in an a cappella
solo that was one of the set's highlights, leading to a similarly impressive turn from Molstad.
At the end of the day, what gave Nilssen-Love's Large Unit its voice was the writing. While the free moments seemed discernible, there were times where the group appeared to dissolve into utter chaos; but when both drummers suddenly came together with identical patterns, it became clear that not all was what it seemed, making it all the more impressiveand demandingthat a recording find its way to the world...and soon.
Having just recently reviewed a duo evening by Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran (with the addition of a first-time encounter with Bill Frisell, both in duo with the saxophonist and
in trio with both Lloyd and Moran) in Montreal, full coverage of another performance a scant two weeks later seemed unnecessary. But without going into full detail, the performance the two musiciansone almost double the other's agegave in Molde was still absolutely noteworthy; perhaps because, without the addition of a third member, it was an even better pure duo set that gave Moran and Lloyd more opportunity and time with which to build their set. Lloyd was in particularly fine form; given that this show was part of Moran's residency made no difference in the music the two made, but the flow of the set was particularly strong, a transcendent series of tunes that reflected both Moran's broad-scoped knowledge and Lloyd's indomitable spirituality.
Back in January, at the end of a week of musical woodshedding and, for some, a little music-as-business force-feeding, the performances of original material
at Take Five Europe were good but a little tired after a week of little sleepmore a promise of what was to come. Nearly six months later, and with a few gigs under their collective belt, the members of Take Five Europe dubbed "European Sunrise"delivered a far more impressive set at Plassen's smaller Teatret Vårt Natt (capacity: approximately 150). Trimmed down from a tentet to a nonet through the unavailable saxophonist Guillaume Perret, but further pared to an octet when trumpeter Piotr Damasiewicz ran into some travel delays, the remaining eight membersbassist Per Zanussi
, tubaist Daniel Herskedal, clarinetist Arun Ghosh
, guitarist Chris Sharkey
, trumpeter Airelle Besson, pianist Marcin Masecki, drummer Marcos Baggiani and clarinetist/saxophonist David Kweksilberstill represented the five countries (Britain, Norway, Poland, France and the Netherlands) which sponsored the educational event and helped create a series of at least five tour dates to allow the group a chance to evolve, both as a unit and as interpreters of its all-original material (one tune from each musician).